A University of Manitoba researcher has been recognized for his work and leadership as a plant breeder.

Dr. Rob Duncan, associate professor in the department of plant science, is the recipient of the early career scientist award by the National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB). The distinction was presented at the organization's annual meeting earlier this month.

Duncan, who grew up on a farm in the Miami area, said the NAPB is made up of a lot of distinguished researchers, which makes the award rather special.

"It's an organization I've been a part of for a few years and at this year's annual meeting there were about 350 plant breeders representing different crops. It's really a unique group and it's an honour to receive such an award."

The Early Career Scientist Award recognizes a scientist in early stages of their plant breeding career who exhibits the ability to establish strong research foundations, to interact with multi-disciplinary teams, and to participate in relevant professional societies.

Duncan is the leader of the Brassica Breeding Program at the University of Manitoba. In his nomination package, Duncan was termed “a magnet and energizer for teams. His can-do personality moves through the group and makes him a natural leader for large teams with big vision and the energy to accomplish to vision.”

According to Duncan, his interest in plant breeding started early while he was growing up on the family farm.

"My mother and father operated our family farm and it was a pedigreed seed production farm, so from quite a young age I was roguing mustard out of seed production fields and from there, in my late teens I started working at Proven Seed about two miles down the road at Rosebank. Those experiences really piqued my interest in agriculture."

He received a B.Sc. in Agronomy (2001) and his MS in Plant Pathology from the University of Manitoba (2003), in addition to completing an exchange program at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden. He then attended the University of California, Davis for his PhD (2009), focusing on breeding for disease resistance in dark red kidney bean.

Upon completion of his doctorate, he moved to Texas, where he served as an assistant professor and the State Wheat/Oilseed Specialist at Texas A&M University. In 2012, Duncan was recruited to the University of Manitoba to lead canola and rapeseed cultivar development, concentrating on improvements in seed quality, disease resistance and several agronomic traits.

Along with the other NAPB award recipients, Duncan will present invited talks at the next NAPB annual meeting, to be hosted by the University of Guelph in August 2018.